This is surreal. After demanding that the House pass a continuing resolution that defunds Obamacare (check), Sen. Ted Cruz and others are insisting that their Senate GOP colleagues filibuster the very measure they've been asking for. Why? Procedural minutiae that very few voters will understand:
Conservatives leading the fight to defund Obamacare in a must-pass budget bill are urging Senate Republicans to filibuster legislation that would do exactly that. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., hasn't announced how he'll proceed on the House-passed continuing resolution to prevent an October government shutdown and defund Obamacare. But Capitol Hill observers expect Reid to strip out the provision defunding Obamacare, a move that would leave Senate Republicans no choice but to filibuster a measure some of them have been demanding.
So, because Reid could strip out the "defunding" language with 51 votes, some Senate conservatives want to deny him that chance by preventing a vote on...their own plan. They allow that if Reid agrees to apply a 60-vote threshold to the "strip-out" maneuver, they'll abandon their filibuster. Reid has zero reason to do so, and Republicans have zero leverage to force his hand. In fact, Reid and Democrats would have a field day pointing out that conservatives are filibustering their own bill. Worse still, Cruz's latest brainstorm would require Senate Republicans to block the House-passed CR in perpetuity, in order to block Reid from calling up a vote on their own preferred plan (because, as leader, he could execute his prerogative to amend it). This entire posture would make GOP opposition to Obamacare look silly and ridiculous, and would threaten conservatives' (heretofore successful) messaging about the unpopular law. In short, it would be a huge assist to Democrats, who should be utterly flailing as their law collapses. It'd also be a massive, pointless, unforced error by Republicans. I've made no bones about my respectful disagreement with the Cruz/Lee/Rubio faction over Obamacare tactics, but this new gambit is suicidal and bone-headed. Here's their case for the new plan. And here's conservative David Freddoso shredding the "Alice in Wonderland" idea, and explaining why the only chance of it "succeeding" relies on shutting down the government for an extended period of time:
The idea is to prevent a vote until the Democrats finally realize we mean business and they’re not getting their way, no matter what. This means we don’t pass a spending bill. And this is where we see that the arguments that “no one is trying to shut down the government,” and “we want to fund the government except for Obamacare,” have been inaccurate — perhaps even disingenuous. The whole point of this strategy, as I noted this summer, is to shut the government down for months. Eventually, Democrats are supposed to get so demoralized by this that they will voluntarily defund Obamacare and leave D.C. with their tails between their legs. Who knows? Maybe they’ll even dissolve the Democratic Party permanently and all liberals will agree to become conservatives.
Freddoso notes that Obamacare would continue to be funded throughout the (widely despised) shutdown, for which the public would overwhelmingly blame Republicans -- especially if they're being relentlessly mocked for filibustering their own bill. If someone has a plausible explanation for how the GOP can defund Obamacare -- without shutting down the government, then getting absolutely hammered for it -- let me know. Until then, I much prefer to force tough votes on delay, and head into 2014 with a strong chance of holding the House and a legitimate shot at winning the Senate. Winning elections is the only way Obamacare will ever be dismantled. In a dismaying twist, the most ardent "don't blink" advocates are actually helping Democrats snatch victory from the jaws of Obamacare defeat. In spite of Cruz et al's laudable goals, Senate Republicans should reject this unwise plan.
UPDATE - Allahpundit games out Cruz's (short-term) motives:
Cruz, of course, understands all of this. He’s under no illusions that the filibuster idea will succeed. I think his pushing for it is aimed mainly at his critics in the House who’ve been grousing that he expects them to do the heavy lifting on his “defund” scheme. Fine, Cruz seems to be saying; if they want me to be the main obstacle to a “clean” CR rather than John Boehner, I’ll try to block it in the Senate even if it means doing something as awkward as filibustering a House bill I support. But it’ll fail and he knows it, and Boehner will be back on the hot seat soon enough. What he’s doing here is simply showing that he’s willing to take some heat himself before Reid’s scheme succeeds and the spotlight shifts back to the House.
But "take some heat" to what end? Enter long-term motives, which are a different story. Also, to be clear, I'm not teeing off on this scheme because I think it will go anywhere. I just don't want this filibuster vote to become the latest purity litmus test for "true" conservatism. Conservatives in good standing can, and I think should, spurn this plan.
Guy Benson is Townhall.com's Political Editor. Follow him on Twitter @guypbenson. He is co-authors with Mary Katharine Ham for their new book End of Discussion: How the Left's Outrage Industry Shuts Down Debate, Manipulates Voters, and Makes America Less Free (and Fun).
Author Photo credit: Jensen Sutta Photography